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Jack Savage in Escape from The Lair of Howlavarius

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“Watch out Jack!”

Baron Howlavarius lunged at our intrepid hero; fangs bared and knife slashing wildly through the air as he made one last ditch effort in avenging his foiled plans while the walls of his cavern lair crumbled around him. But thanks to the quick warning of his faithful companion, Jack Savage deftly dodged his foe and returned the vicious gesture with a swift kick to the vile wolf’s lone eye, sending him tumbling over the guardrail and into the water below.

“Guess he’ll be wearing two eye-patches the next time I see him,” Jack triumphantly scoffed as he watched the conniving canid paddle away in defeat.

“Oh Jack,” exclaimed Skye as she rushed to his side and embraced the gallant rabbit. “I was so worried about you.”

With a toothy smirk, Jack Savage swept the vivacious vixen off her feet and into his arms, where he lowered his handsome face close to her full, pouting lips.

“Skye, my dear,” he spoke in his deep, velvety voice, “as long as I’m around you never have to worry about another day another dollar huh

 


 

“Hey, did you hear me? Savage?”

“Hm?” Jack blinked for a moment, only now aware of the voice beside him as it had somehow seeped into the text on his screen. Tearing his head away from the monitor, he saw one of his co-workers, an apathetic ferret named Hutchins, was lazily leaning against the wall of Jack’s cubicle.

“I said, ‘another day, another dollar, huh’,” Hutchins repeated in a monotone drawl. “Jeez, you really get absorbed in your work sometimes.”

“Heh, right,” Jack forced a smile as he clumsily tried his best to save and close the piece of self-indulgent prose he had been working on.

“You’re not planning on working late, are you?” Hutchins asked in a mildly disinterested tone; swishing his mug from side to side in some pointless attempt at keeping his coffee ‘fresh’ before tipping the stone cold mug to his lips. “Quitting time is, like, five minutes away.”

“Naw, naw.” Jack shook his head. “I’ll be fine. Just a few t’s to cross and i’s to dot. Don’t worry about me.”

Truth was, Jack had already finished the day’s workload nearly an hour ago. He was, after all, the fastest accountant in the firm, so it wasn’t uncommon for him to clear his plate early and make use of the remaining downtime to focus on his more personal hobbies and pursuits.

As soon as Hutchins was satisfied and out of his fur, Jack uploaded the saved document to his ZoogleDrive account and deleted the local file. He was lucky that their IT department didn’t poke into anyone’s account history, but he still didn’t want to risk accidentally having one of his stories in eye view if a client, or worse, HR, was hanging over his shoulder.

With a light sigh, he hopped off his chair and powered down his workstation for the day. The wild adventures of Jack Savage, international super spy, would have to wait until he returned to his modest one-bedroom apartment, as it was now time for Jack Savage, run-of-the-mill accountant, to commute home. On the bus.

 


 

As soon as he stepped through the door, Jack dramatically tossed his jacket through the air towards the awaiting coat rack by the closet, where it rather un-dramatically plopped onto the linoleum floor in a crumpled heap.

Loosening the tie off his neck, Jack opted to be a little less flashy and simply chucked it over the back of his couch while he made a u-turn into the kitchen.

The fridge was mostly empty - as usual - but Jack didn’t mind much as he was only really looking for a quick drink to help him decompress after the long, crowded ride on the bus. He smugly smiled as he plucked a can of cucumber soda from the fridge, thinking to himself that no food in the apartment only meant that he had an excuse to order out.

Not that he ever needed much of an excuse in the first place.

Bounding over the couch, Jack set his drink down by the laptop that rested on his coffee table and flipped up its screen, bringing it whirring to life. It was a bit of an older model that was getting slower by the year when it came to starting up, so he picked up the soda, flopped back against the sofa cushion, and hit the power button on his TV remote.

The news wasn’t on yet; just some silly sitcom about otters and beavers that was finishing up. Jack cracked open the can and took a sip of fizzy, sugary cucumber water, and glanced down at his laptop. It was almost fully booted, with the Lynxux logo displaying with a near full status bar below it, but Jack could only grumble impatiently.

The long crawl of the workday? The uncomfortable commutes from and to home? Mere inconveniences of the day to day life.

The grueling, agonizing, torturous wait for his damned computer to sputter into working condition? The absolute worst.

The tinny speakers on the side of the laptop emitted the tell-tale chime of his desktop finally loading up, so Jack took another long gulp of soda and slammed the can down on the coffee table before hunching over the small LCD screen.

No new emails. At least, none that really mattered in his primary account; just the usual spam he never bothered to unsubscribe from or actually delete. His secondary account, however, had at least one satisfying missive.

‘You’ve got kudus!’ proclaimed the email sent to him by the Zootopia Fan Fiction Fanatics mail-bot. It always was pleasant to see that the odd bit of appreciation for his work still trickled in now and then.

Although, he never understood why they didn’t simply say ‘kudos’.

Sometimes it seemed odd to him how far people in Zootopia would go to make a pun.

After taking a moment to bask in the warmth of anonymous acknowledgment, Jack tabbed over to JustGraze.com to put in a delivery order while the TV blared the same damn advertisement it had been repeating nightly for the past week.

Yeah, yeah, this week on Pack Street someone will go savage, blah, blah.

Jack never understood why everyone in the break room talked endlessly about shows like that. The news was far more exciting, and more original, well-written content could be easily found on the internet.

With a few clicks, Jack’s order was finalized. And just in time too, as the opening music score of the ZNN evening news broadcast started to play.

Jack liked to keep informed. Especially since the whole Bellwether Incident. But unlike most other mammals that were glued to their TV sets during the crisis, the arrest and the trial, Jack stayed glued.

After all, the one upside to the whole ordeal was that he gained a new nightly hero to follow. Him and an entire chunk of the internet.

Turning the volume up, Jack earnestly focused all attention on the night’s stories.

A ZCLU press conference against the upcoming TAME Act. Mayor Swinton discussing the current progress of the urban revitalization project. A suspected case of arson in Happytown. An unidentified body found in Sahara Square.

All very important stories, of course, but what Jack was waiting for was the true gem of the evening.

“In other news…”

The anticipated report that came at least once a week.

“Zootopia’s own hero cop duo has done it again.”

The proverbial free sandwich at the end of the punch-card.

“Officers Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde have apprehended the serial bank robber known as ‘The Horned Heister’.”

Jack’s buck teeth crept over his bottom lip as his mouth spread into an ear-to-ear grin. Finally, the good stuff.

“For the past two weeks, the financial institutions of Zootopia had been menaced by this criminal rhino, now identified as Moris Keratos, a former mechanic from Sahara Square--”

Moments like this made him feel like a kit again. Like a jolt of electricity shocked his senses and brought him back to life.

“--had directly targeted various banks owned and operated by small to mid-height mammals, utilizing his natural strength and an improvised suit of armor to literally--”

Jack was practically bouncing on the edge of his seat, ogling all the pictures and video that flashed across the screen, showing the various CCTV recordings of the robberies in action, displaying the evidence photos of the confiscated armour, and best of all, the digital paw-held footage of Hopps and Wilde themselves taking Keratos into custody.

“--finally caught and arrested by the ZPD after a citywide high-speed chase--”

A high-speed chase!

Jack launched himself off the couch in exuberant glee and slammed his paws down on the coffee table to keep himself from tumbling over; the very idea of zipping and weaving through the busy streets of Zootopia to catch a giant, metal plated, rampaging rhino was more than enough to send his heart soaring.

Judy and Nick were amazing!

Especially Judy.

And also Nick.

But mostly Judy!

She was so much more than some trendsetter breaking barriers between pred and prey. She was an ideal for all rabbits. Someone to look up to.

A hero, even.

His hero.

She was everything he could aspire to be but could only ever realize in written form while he plodded from day to day at some dead-end job crunching numbers for other number crunching drones in their own dead-end jobs, so they could crunch those numbers for--

The sudden, jarring electric buzz of his apartment intercom snapped Jack out of his reverie, causing his body to buck forward painfully against the table’s edge. The opened can of cucumber soda flopped over as he banged his hip against the surface, sending the remaining contents spilling out and perilously flowing towards his laptop.

“Oh crap!”

Jack quickly set the can back upright and snatched his computer out of harm’s way, only to get startled again by another loud buzz.

“Crap!” Jack panicked; caught between the rock and a hard place of ditching his laptop, cleaning a soda spill, and answering the door.

A third rapid-fire buzz pressed his decision, so he haphazardly tossed his laptop onto the couch, abandoned the table’s scattered magazines to the cruel whims of the soda tide, and scurried over to the intercom to hit the door button.

All the while, the rest of the news continued on without him.

“Thank God for ZVR,” Jack muttered to himself as he caught his breath.

He could hear the distant hum of his building’s elevator rising up to his floor, so Jack recomposed himself, straightened his fur a bit, and calmly waited for his food to arrive.

At least, he was calm until the rhythmic rapping of a paw knocking against his door startled him yet again.

‘How does she always do that?’ Jack thought to himself, attempting to straighten his tie out for a second before remembering it was several feet away on the back of the couch.

Unexpected noises or not, Jack at least knew exactly what to expect when he carefully opened his front door and looked up into the beautiful blue eyes of a food-bearing angel dressed in matching dark slacks and polo shirt.

“Carrot lo mein and steamed vegetables again, huh Jack?” The cream colored vixen smirked down at him as she held out the large brown paper bag that contained his dinner order.

“Got me to a tee, Skye,” Jack nervously tittered as he accepted the bag into both paws and sat it down by his side.

“Gotta say, though, I always love seeing your name pop up on the receipt. ‘Jack Savage’,” Skye gave him a little wink and giggled, “Like you’re some kinda action hero or something.”

Jack tried to laugh all cool and natural at her little joke, but like most cases such as this it barked out as an awkwardly loud “Haha!”

Skye, to her credit, didn’t seem to notice.

“So, anyway…” She held out her paw; swishing her hips a little and wagging her tail expectantly. “I think you know the damage.”

Jack just stared up at her blankly. Thoughts of what he wanted to say to her - what he wanted to ask her - rushed through his head, overriding all other pertinent thinking.

“Um, Jack?”

“Oh, r-right,” Jack sputtered as he reached into his pants for his wallet. “Sorry, I spaced out there.”

“S’alright,” Skye shrugged, “I’m getting used to it.”

Fumbling through his billfold, Jack’s mind was back to wildly sorting through a sea of jumbled thoughts.

What did she mean she was ‘getting used to it’?

Was that good? Bad?

Maybe she’s flirting.

Is this what flirting is like?

Should he invite her in to join him?

No! Don’t be stupid, she’s working. Why would she risk getting fired to eat soggy carrot noodles with YOU?

She probably prefers bugs.

Maybe I should get bugs next time. She might think I’m being adventurous.

Adventurous? Eating bugs?! How milquetoast is that?!

Jack Savage and the Crispy Cricket Caper, sounds like a real page-turner!

Oh god, imagine what she’d think of you if she knew you write fan fiction?!

Or worse, those silly, self-insert ‘original character’ stories.

Oh god, oh god, oh god ohgod ohgodohgodohgodohgod

“Here you go.” Finally producing a pair of bills, Jack pressed them into Skye’s awaiting paw with a smile plastered on his face. “Keep the change.”

“Pleasure as always Jack,” Skye beamed as she stuffed the cash into her pocket and turned to leave down the hall. “Enjoy your dinner!”

“Y-you too.”

Smooth Jack.

Real smooth.

And just like the news report, another highlight of the evening had passed.

Jack picked up the delivery bag and made a detour through his kitchen to grab a roll of paper towels and a bottle of water on his way back to the couch.

The spill itself wasn’t a total disaster. No more than a few sheets were needed to soak up the liquid, and the only magazine that got drenched was a collected fiction anthology that he really only bought to see what kind of works get published for money.

To be honest, it was mostly dreck, so the magazine wasn’t a total loss.

But even then, he knew it was dreck written better than anything he had ever done, and a mass of warped paper getting tossed in the garbage did little to satisfy his schadenfreude.

With everything back in order, he returned the laptop to its previous spot and unpacked his dinner next to it before rewinding and resuming the news recording.

There wasn’t much left to the Hopps and Wilde story; not even a public address by either officer about the arrest. It was over before he had even split his chopsticks in two. So instead he leaned down to his laptop and let the news play in the background while he ate and checked his online stomping grounds.

Dik-dikscord was mostly chatting about the usual irrelevant stuff. Some mention of the news report here and there, but otherwise just focusing on their own personal minutiae and posting flavour of the month memes.

The WildeHopps General on Furchan wasn’t doing much better either. Far more discussion about the upcoming Pack Street episode; while anything on-topic was more focused on Officer Wilde than Hopps. Judy was there first and clearly did all the work, so he didn’t understand why they put so much attention on him.

Frankly, he would have preferred the group be called HoppsWilde, but it was impossible to argue with people who went with the other way around because ‘it rolls off the tongue better’.

He also had another, more selfish reason to resent Wilde fans.

Fan fiction centered on Nick Wilde gets way more attention than Judy Hopps fics.

And he writes Judy fics.

Tabbing over to his ZF3 profile, he scrolled through the assortment of Judy fics he had written over the last year or so, checking for increases in view stats, and like always, it was barely noticeable since he last checked yesterday or the day before that. Nothing he wrote ever broke more than triple digits, and on some level maybe he should be happy with the idea that hundreds of mammals have read his tales of Judy going on adventures of fantastical justice, but still…

Still…

How could he be satisfied when some bloated, purple prose drenched, ill-conceived pablum about Nick Wilde dispensing law and order in a post-apocalyptic future ruled by multi-coloured mutant horses was drawing in six digits?!

He just couldn’t understand it. And with every update the damned thing was constantly attracting a large number of ewes.

Seriously, he checked the analytics, and a disproportionate number of sheep was eating this tripe like no tomorrow.

With a short grunt, Jack closed his laptop and flopped back on the sofa with the rest of his steamed vegetables on his lap. He wasn’t in the mood to lurk online or do any more writing that night, so he just sat back and ate while the news playback went over the dull stuff he usually tuned out, like sports scores or fluff pieces about elderly marmots teaching their pet chickens how to water-ski.

He just needed a moment to escape from the letdowns of life.

 


 

A sharp knock at his door woke Jack from his slumber.

An infomercial for Gazelle’s Fry Everything cookbook was currently playing on the TV, with the pop starlet herself showing off a series of baked goods she made using the recipes covered in the book, while some dorky looking cougar gesticulated wildly at how amazing everything looked.

“The infomercial block?” Confused, Jack rubbed his bleary eyes. “What hour is it?”

Another knock tapped behind him; this time in a more playful and melodic manner than the loud strike that woke him.

“Mm?” He had no idea who could be at his door at such a late hour, but considering the main entrance had an electric lock, burglars seemed very unlikely. “Coming!”

Jack slipped off the edge of the couch and sauntered over to his front door while another series of pleasant tappings rattled away.

“I’m coming. I’m coming…” Jack droned as he unlocked the deadbolt and pulled open the door. “I’m-- Oh.”

Standing there was his favorite delivery girl, only now she was out of her usual work uniform and dressed much more comely than he’d ever seen her before. She wore a pink camisole with one of the straps hanging ever so loosely, a pair of tan thigh-length shorts, and makeup.

He certainly never saw her in makeup before. A subtle coat of pink lipstick accentuated her lips, while a complimenting brushing of eye shadow was crested with dark mascara, making her baby blue eyes stand out more brilliantly than ever before.

He was gobsmacked.

“S-s-s-sk--”

“Hello Jack,” Skye purred as she looked down on him with the slightest curve of a smile on her face. Her tail hung low and swept slowly from side to side.

“H-h--” Jack swallowed a swelling lump in his throat and finally managed to wrest control over his mouth. “Hi.”

The timid display he had been putting on must have at least been somewhat cute, as Skye covered her mouth and giggled without the slightest hint of malice.

“So, uh…” Jack sucked in his gut and did his best to look cool and calm by casually leaning against the door. “What brings you back at this hour?”

Skye lowered her paw from her muzzle and cocked her head to the side coquettishly. “Oh, do I need any reason?”

Jack smirked and gave her a little shrug. “I guess not,” he chuckled. “It’s a free city.” Pushing the door further open, he lightly tilted his head back, gesturing her inside. “Care for a drink?”

“I thought you’d never ask.”

Jack reached up and took Skye by the paw, leading her into his living room. The infomercial on TV had changed to an advert for a Best of Otterdam Jazz album collection, filling the room with the smooth instrumental melodies of the genre’s greats.

“So, what can I get you?” Jack asked after seating the lovely lady on one of the stools by the kitchen’s pass-through counter. “Scotch on the rocks? A gin and tonic? I’m known to make a fine martini in a pinch.”

“Mmm,” Skye luxuriously leaned over the polished marble counter and gave Jack a most sinfully sultry smile. “I’m just a simple girl. You wouldn’t happen to have a chilled bottle of champagne, would you?”

Jack’s face curled up in a handsome smirk. “I think I can manage that.” And from within his fridge, he produced a green frosted bottle of the finest sparkling wine and two elegant flute glasses.

With a deft twist, he effortlessly uncorked the bottle and suavely poured a glass for each of them. Skye gracefully accepted her glass and tilted it towards Jack’s own outstretched flute, softly clinking them together.

No cheers or sentimental wishes were exchanged between them as the light tune of reverberating glass rang in the air. The warm, knowing looks they had in each other’s eyes was more than enough of a toast for two ships meeting in the night. They let their silent hearts speak their own words while they both tipped their glasses to their lips and sipped a liquid embrace.

“You’re such a refined gentlemammal, Jack,” Skye coyly cooed; eying him seductively as she swished and swirled the champagne in her glass. “Nothing like those foxes who come calling for me. They’re always running hustles or stealing the thunder of smart, empowered women.” Suggestively, she ran the rim of her glass over her lips and grinned, flashing her full set of pearly whites. “I think I could fall for a bunny like you.”

“Be careful,” Jack warned in his rich baritone voice, “once you go rabbit, you develop a habit.”

The two of them laughed heartily at Jack’s quick witticism, wiping tears from their eyes before finally settling down into a soft, sincere smile. Skye reached out and gently brushed away a few diamond-like droplets that still sat on Jack’s cheek.

“Oh Jack,” she delicately whispered, “I did have a reason for coming here tonight. I’m so tired of wasting my life away delivering Pandanese food. I want adventure. I want excitement. I want something more.”

Jack then tenderly placed his paw over hers, eliciting a fragile gasp from her throat.

“Skye,” Jack said as he looked deeply into her eyes, like they were two twinkling stars in the vast horizon of space, beckoning for a lost soul to seek them out and make them whole again so they can shine bright like twin burning suns, “Something More is my middle name.”

“Oh, Jack!”

The two tossed their glasses carelessly aside and lunged over the counter at each other, wrapping their arms around their lithe frames in a passionate caress; their lips drawing tantalizingly close as they reached the pinnacle of the mountain that was their love for each other.

But suddenly, the front door burst into splinters. Jack instinctively pulled Skye over the counter and hid her behind him for her own safety’s sake. The warm-hearted face of a poet among artists faded away from his face and hardened into the steely, unflappable rock of a rabbit who would do anything to protect his lady.

A deep, throaty, maniacal laughter rumbled from beyond his apartment entrance, and from the cloud of dust and debris that billowed ominously into the living room emerged the hulking, hunchback figure of one Baron Howlavarius.

“They say to catch a rat you only have to find where he lives,” the Baron sneered, “I suppose the same goes for rabbits as well, eh Mr. Savage?”

“Howlavarius,” Jack seethingly snarled. “What are you doing here?”

“Why a little bird told me that your local restaurant won’t be delivering anymore and I’d like to offer my own services.” The loathsome lupus drew a large pistol from out of his coat and leveled it at the stalwart lovers. “My policy is that it’ll be there in thirty minutes or you’re dead.”

Carefully glancing at the champagne bottle that still sat on the counter-top, Jack knew he needed to distract him if they had any chance of getting out of this alive.

“And if it gets here on time?”

“Oh,” The Baron pursed his lips, pondering for a fearsome follow-up, “Let’s see…”

Seizing on the moment, Jack snatched the bottle and smashed it on the counter’s edge to retrieve the compact pistol he hid within for such an occasion like this. Before Howlavarius could react, Jack quickly took aim and fired, disarming the one-eyed wolf with a well-placed bullet in his paw.

“Damn you, Mr. Savage,” Howlavarius roared as he clutched his bleeding paw.

“That’s Jack Savage to you,” Jack smugly shot back. “Skye, be a dear and call the police, this sharp-tongued beast needs a muzzle.”

“I’m already on it, Jack,” Skye called back to him; the phone was surprisingly already in her paws and Jack could hear the chatter from the other line. “They say they’ll be here in half an hour.”

“Typical,” Jack chuckled. “Tell them that if they’re late it’s still fine to charge him. He always pays in the end. Eh, Baron?”

The only reply Howlavarius gave him was a craven growl.

“But wait, there’s more,” Skye continued, “All contestants get a free copy of our home game!”

A thunderous round of applause suddenly filled Jack’s apartment while both Skye and Baron Howlavarius whooped and clapped, leaving our humbly heroic hero utterly confused.

“Wait, what?”

 


 

Jack awoke to a cacophony of cheerful hollering that came from his TV while an upbeat game show jingle trumpeted through the noise. When his sleepy eyes regained their focus, he could see that the program playing on the screen was the evening rerun of Are You Smarter than a Dolphin.

He had been asleep for over two hours.

Jack grumbled as he shifted himself back up into an upright position. There was nothing worse than finding out that a dream was a dream.

But while brushing his paw over his dress shirt to smooth out the wrinkles, he felt a sticky dampness on the fabric and was faced with a solid contender for second worst.

“Eyugh! Dammit...”

He must’ve nodded off mid-meal; the remains of his steamed vegetables now sat cold on his chest, where it had congealed and soaked into his shirt in one big brown stain.

“Great, that’s just- Shit!”

With a frustrated grunt, Jack stomped off towards the kitchen, unbuttoning his shirt along the way. If there was any upside at all, it was that the sleeveless undershirt he wore beneath was unscathed, but that did little to ease his irritation as he kicked his step stool over to the kitchen sink and hopped up to turn on the hot water tap.

“Of all the stupid--”

He continued to mutter and grumble impotently as he grabbed a bar of soap and furiously rubbed it against the shirt under the running water. It seemed like it was just one thing after another that night. First came the spill on his coffee table, then falling asleep and losing half his free time, and now this. Just like the suds that swirled in his sink, his evening was going down the drain.

After a couple more minutes of scrubbing, Jack held up his shirt to survey the results and found himself sighing at the faint brown splotch that continued to spread across the surface. It wasn’t as bad as before, but it certainly wasn’t something he could just cover up with a tie either. Defeated, Jack gave an effortless shrug and draped the shirt over the sink’s edge; he’d have to give it a proper wash in the machine on the weekend after all.

Jack shuffled his way back to the TV and shut it off as another round of applause burst out. He was done watching television for now. In fact he felt a little too lethargic to motivate himself into doing any further writing for the evening either. An hour or two of lurking online was really all he had left in him.

He was midway into coming up with an inflammatory post to rile up the Nick Wilde fanboys on Furchan, utilizing a rumor he once heard about the sort of unsavory relationships male foxes have with their mothers, when there was a knock at his door.

Jack’s paws hovered motionless over his keyboard.

He wasn’t dreaming this time. At least, he was fairly certain he wasn’t. The writing on his screen made perfect sense and wasn’t the jumbled, constantly shifting mess his mind usually threw together whenever he read things in dreams. And peering over the couch’s back, he confirmed that the dirty shirt and other elements of his daily clutter still remained strewn about.

A second knock came and Jack took yet another glance at his laptop screen to reaffirm that nothing had changed; he definitely wasn’t dreaming and was still midway through implying crude liaisons between a police officer and his mom.

Jack slowly closed his laptop and slid off the couch, cautiously creeping towards the door. Worlds of possibilities ran through his little head as his ears flattened with fearful apprehension.

Could it be a late night robbery? Checking to see if someone was home; breaking in if they weren’t, or mugging them if they were?

No, the front door has an electric lock and he lived several floors up, with dozens of other tenants on his floor alone; why bother singling out him?

Did he take his shitposting too far and he was finally being “T.U.S.K.ed”?

Also not likely; the police have to announce themselves and the knocking wasn’t urgent enough.

Still, getting doxed wasn’t out of the question. Plenty of odd characters in his online social circles, and he heard the guy who wrote ‘Melancholic Failures’ had to deal with a couple obsessive mammals trying to dig into his personal life.

At that thought Jack derisively sighed. Who was he kidding? No one cared enough about his writing to stalk him in the first place.

Knowing that further hesitation would only mean missing his chance to sate his curiosity, Jack reluctantly reached out to the knob and opened the door.

“Oh, uh- Ah heh- Hey.”

Standing in front of him was Skye; a look of embarrassed surprise was on her face and her paw was still raised and poised for what was probably going to be a third knock on the door.

“Sorry, I would have buzzed up, but this nice lady in your building let me in since she was on her way out, and it felt rude to say no, but seriously you gotta be careful about that because you never know what creeps are trying to sneak in and--” Skye suddenly shut her mouth and closed her eyes in a brief wince. “Ugh. Sorry, I’m rambling, aren’t I? Let me start over- Hi, Jack!”

The smile and wave she gave him seemed a little bit strained; far tenser than she usually acted on her deliveries. Quickly, she faltered into a look of concern. Overall, she wasn’t acting how Jack usually saw her.

“Um, is this a bad time?”

It was then that Jack realized that not only was he goggling back at her without a single word spoken, but his face was probably making unusual twitches at the stabbing pain of him pinching his own tail to make absolutely sure he wasn’t caught in another dream.

“N-no, no,” Jack replied as he released his tail. “Not- Not at all. Um… What can I do for you?”

Assuming a cool façade, Jack briefly entertained the thought that maybe the real Skye had the same intentions of his fantasy, but that bubble was quickly burst by a more realistic notion.

“There, uh, wasn’t a problem with the bill, w-was there?”

“Ah, nooo,” Skye giggled; her usual calm and playful attitude had returned. “Not unless if you need that change back. Anyway, I’m off the clock.”

Blinking, Jack suddenly realized she was indeed out of uniform and not as seductively dressed as her dream counterpart, but rather normal. Casual, even. Instead of a slinky pink top and short shorts, she wore a cozy looking powder blue hoodie and plain old jeans.

No makeup either. But he already knew she didn’t need makeup to look good.

He on the other paw…

Wrinkled slacks, a less than stylish tank-top, his fur was probably still ruffled after nodding off and--

Oh geez.

It immediately struck Jack that his apartment behind him was in total disarray; clothes tossed around, takeout containers sitting about, waste bin filled with soda drenched magazines…

With the hope that Skye hadn’t taken the chance to look past him, Jack stepped over the threshold and allowed the door to swing shut behind him with a soft click, isolating the crisis zone from her prying eyes.

“Sooo,” Jack said coolly as he leaned back against the door, “what can I do for you?”

Skye smirked. “You already asked that.”

“O-oh, I did? R-right…”

Skye gave him a brief smile of reassurance before breaking off eye contact, awkwardly glancing down the hall.

“Listen…” She stuck her paws in the pockets of her hoodie and fidgeted a little. “There’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you for a while now…”

Wait? What?

Jack fought against all reflexes that said he should be bugging his eyes out and dropping his jaw.

She couldn’t be trying to say what he’s thinking. No way.

“It’s kinda embarrassing,” Skye continued, bashfully tucking her head down like she was trying to retreat into the confines of her pullover. “And you might think I’m weird for asking…”

Oh god. Oh god…

Jack’s mom always told him that it was foolish to expect women to come to him; that he would never get anywhere without putting himself out there. And sure, his brothers Max, Harry, Bill, Chad, Tex, Ron, Victor, Bo, Anton, Carlos, Bart and Timmy all got married to the first does they ever asked out, but he knew he was different.

And it was happening.

Oh god, it was finally happening!

“Do you… Write fan fiction?”

Fuck.

“Under the name ‘TheSavageOne’, with threes for e’s?”

Fuck. Fuck!

Sirens and klaxons were blaring in Jack’s head as he did everything he could to keep from melting down in a full-blown panic attack. That would have been the perfect end to a train wreck of a night; collapsing into a sputtering mess in front of the vixen he’s been crushing on since the first time she delivered him vegetarian pot stickers.

Skye didn’t seem to notice the visible trembling his body was exhibiting as he struggled to keep from boiling over and thank god for that. If there was anything he could possibly hope for to salvage this bad situation, it was to manage to convince her that no, it wasn’t him, it was some other Savage.

In fact, it was Carlos Savage.

Carlos is a dick.

Otherwise, Plan B was to quietly slip away into his apartment and kill himself.

Course, if he did that, it’d only confirm her suspicions.

Also, the cops would probably search his laptop for a suicide note and find all his writing. Then he’d be dead, Skye would know he’s a loser, and the ZPD would have to report that Jack had a stack of Judy Hopps fan fiction on his hard drive.

She’d probably be part of the investigation, too. And Officer Wilde. They’d probably read all the silly stories he wrote about them and think he’s a creep.

Plan B wasn’t very good.

The one solitary thing that kept him from going completely nuclear was the fact that he never published those stupid, ridiculous, pathetic, self-indulgent, self-insertion spy stories about him and Skye.

In fact, the first thing Jack resolved to do after getting himself out of this predicament was to completely delete every single story he ever wrote and go cold turkey.

He was a terrible writer anyways; he just needed this kind of wake-up call to make him realize how much he was wasting his time on such absolute drivel.

“A-anyways, if you are him, I just wanted to say I really like your fics.”

Snapping out of his spiral of self-loathing, Jack did a double-take.

“Y-you do?”

“Yeah,” Skye replied. “I think they’re really fun and have a lot of heart put into them.”

To Jack’s surprise, the look on her face and the words from her mouth were utterly sincere.

“Oh, well… Thank you.” He had gotten a modest number of hits, views, likes, ‘kudus’, and comments in the past, but this was the first time someone - anyone - had complimented him in person.

And it felt great.

“It’s no problem.” Skye shrunk her neck back under her collar and shyly pocketed her paws. “I, uh… I’ve written something too, actually. ‘The Curse of the Air Pirates’. You probably haven’t heard of it…”

“Y-yeah…” He was shocked; Jack actually knew what she was talking about. “Yeah, I have. It was good- I mean, it was really good. I mean, I don’t think anybody ever thought of combining classic airplane pulp adventures with post-gothic ghost hoax mysteries before. It blends genres AND has some of the richest prose I’ve ever read in the community- I mean--”

Jack stopped his unexpected moment of gushing at the sight of the pleasantly amused look on Skye’s face and collected himself.

“So you’re--”

“SpannerFan, yeah,” Skye nodded.

“Huh, I didn’t realize you were a girl. …Uh, that is- Obviously you’re a girl, but--”

Skye snorted and teasingly shook her head. “I know what you mean. I was going to use SpannerFox, but someone else was already using it to write some of that weird mutant horse fiction.”

“God, what is up with that?” Jack chuckled.

“I don’t get it either,” Skye laughed back. “So… You seriously think it was good?”

“Yeah. Absolutely. You should definitely write more.” Jack then paused for a moment before piping up with “How exactly did you figure out it was me. -I was me. -TheSavageOne was--”

“A shot in the dark, really,” Skye nonchalantly shrugged. “I mean, first hint was your name, of course.”

“Of course.”

“And then there was how you wrote Judy Hopps. I mean, she may not be the most popular protagonist in the fandom, but when she’s used it’s always so poorly, you know?”

“Oh god, I know,” Jack groaned.

“So anyways, your take on her really felt like it came from the perspective of a rabbit, like, figuratively and literally. So I start wondering, ‘hey, I know a guy who’s a rabbit named Savage, maybe it’s him’. I mean, how many rabbits named Savage live in Zootopia?”

“One thousand, five hundred, seventy-two,” Jack replied without blinking.

“Oh… Wow.” Skye’s eyes widened in surprise. “That’s… Actually a lot. And very specific."

“I memorized the phone book.”

Skeptically, Skye tilted her head to the side and peered at Jack out of the corners of her eyes for a few moments before snorting “No you didn’t.”

Without saying a word to confirm or deny her calling his bluff, a mischievous smile spread across Jack’s face.

Skye rolled her eyes and playfully nudged Jack’s shoulder. “You dip.”

“Had you going for a second, right?”

“Pfft. Right,” Skye replied sarcastically. “Anyway, here.” She retrieved a folded piece of paper from her hoodie’s pocket and thrust it into one of Jack’s paws.

“What’s this?” He asked, looking back and forth between her and the paper he was unfolding.

“Another number to memorize.”

Jack’s knees nearly buckled once he had the paper fully opened. Her statement should have made it obvious, but only seeing it made it real.

It was her phone number.

He got a girl’s phone number.

“If, uh, you’re interested, we could get coffee and talk about writing, or, uh, you know, whatever.”

“Y-yeah, absolutely,” Jack blurted out. “I’d lo- Ahem. …I’d like that.”

Skye nodded and smiled down at him. “I’ll see you around Jack.”

And Jack smiled and nodded back. “You too.”

Smooth Jack.

Real smooth.

And as she walked away down the hall, Jack happily watched her, practically on cloud nine.

He had Skye’s number. She wants to be around him. She liked his writing…

Jack reached up and pinched one of his ears, shortly flinching at the pain before grinning over the best part; it wasn’t a dream.

Tonight had turned out pretty great after all.

With a pleasant sigh, he tucked the phone number into his pants and turned to open the door.

“Um…”

At least, that was the intention before remembering that while the deadbolt was unlocked, the rim latch, however, locks automatically.

“Ah…”

And his keys were inside.

“H-hey, Skye,” Jack called out as he frantically turned to see the elevator doors starting to close on her, “Is now a good time for that coffee?”